“Alex? Alex, it’s okay, sweetie. You are here now. I’ve got you,” a sweet familiar voice said to him. Internally, he cringed. This body lived in a love-hate world. Bankal opened his eyes to the hospital room. He was Alex.
“I’m fine, Mom,” Alex said and looked down at his eleven-year-old body. His skin looked gray. More gray than he remembered. A sick feeling washed over him. This body was dying from leukemia.
“Where were you this time?” His mom whispered. Alex watched her look over her shoulder, toward his father, and quickly back. She slipped her fingers around her son’s hand and smiled, the question still hanging in her eyes.
“I got myself in trouble,” Alex said. “I was captured.”
“What happened?” his mother asked.
“I didn’t mean it. I was hungry and took some bread. I left that old man in the dungeon,” Alex said, stealing a glance at his father’s thin face. The slender man stared back at his son. Without a word, he got up and walked out of the room.
In all the worlds Bankal had traveled, he tried to explain these body assumptions. No one believed his journeys were real, except one person. The woman who sat before him now. His mother. Anna was the name she called herself. In this body, Bankal believed Alex was real. Unlike most of the lives he followed, he knew Alex had a history. He was a son. He was loved. This body meant something to those who loved him.
Which body was the first? Which one is real? These were questions Bankal asked himself constantly.
Alex was always cautious with his words. His situation was the hardest. Bankal could not comprehend how Anna dealt with the pain. Each day she sat by her son’s bedside, praying, and talking softly with him. The pain and fatigue in the body of her son were debilitating, and not just for Alex.
He tried his best to sit up in the bed. Maybe just one hug would make Anna smile. He believed it was something she desperately needed. The blankets were too heavy to lift. The struggle was futile. There was just no way of moving such a sickly vessel. Alex slowly reached his arms toward his mother.
“Anna?” A voice in the doorway interrupted. It was Alex’s father. Mark was the name he called himself. “Can I speak with you for a second?” Mark glanced at Alex with a small smile, but his eyes quickly looked back at Anna.
Anna turned to Alex and kissed him on the forehead. “Stay for a while, traveler. I will be right back. I want to know more about the old man.”
She stood up, and her smile faded as she walked out of the room. Mark’s mannerisms through the door’s window were obviously disturbed. Anna’s fists clenched as she threw them to her sides. She turned back toward the room and pushed the door open a few inches. Mark’s voice stopped her and Alex could hear him. His father was not happy.
Mark latched onto Anna’s arm and pleaded, “You should not encourage talk of these so-called journeys. The more energy he spends, the weaker he becomes. He can’t fight that hard. We will lose…” Mark’s voice trailed off.
She put her hand on Mark’s shoulder and said, “We both know he is past the fight now. These stories, his journeys, are all he has left. He needs this. We can’t take that away.”
Mark reached up and placed his hand on Anna’s arm. He glanced at Alex, who quickly looked away, pretending he wasn’t listening. Alex hadn’t missed the shine from his father’s tear-filled eyes in the florescent light of the hospital corridor. Mark blinked and turned away. Anna pushed the door open all the way and joined Alex at his bedside.
Alex didn’t want his mother to know he had overheard them. He decided to no longer talk about his journeys. He didn’t want to add more stress for Anna and Mark. It had to be hard enough to know your son was dying.
Anna smiled at Alex. He tried to smile in return and squinted. His vision faltered. The familiar flicker.
Not again. Please, not just yet.
“Mom, it’s okay. I know-” Alex started to say, but the flicker intensified. His body shook, matching the vibrations of the world around him. He closed his eyes and was transported.